Coping with Infidelity is a four-part series that aims to remove the culture of silence and shame around adultery. The author has chosen to remain anonymous to protect the privacy of her children. Read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 here.
Christmas: The Monster Under My Bed
It’s been almost one year since I discovered my husband’s affair with his co-worker.
The morning of January 13, 2017 I found text messages indicating a sexual affair. As they told each other how great the last time had been and how excited they were to do it again, their words read like the script from a bad porn flick. It would have been comical and ridiculous if it wasn’t true.
My husband said it had “only” been going on for a couple of months, which means (if he’s being truthful) their affair began in November.
There have been many phases to my recovery, but thinking about their one-year anniversary and tormenting myself with thoughts like “a year ago they did this” or, “a year ago they were doing that” is among the strangest and most difficult. Just when I thought I was about to summit Recovery Mountain, this bullshit has knocked me back down.
What makes our situation even more awesome is that my husband and his ex-lover still work together. When they see each other do they share a look, thinking about where they were a year ago? And is that look one of regret and shame, or longing?
As I start preparing for the holidays and making plans to celebrate our regular traditions, I keep remembering that this time last year, my husband was sleeping with someone else. While I was feathering the nest and making plans he was lying to me about where he was and who he was with.
He was lying to me about everything that matters.
I can’t stop thinking about the holiday party where he and I held hands all night, or the evening we decorated the tree with our girls, or the smiles we exchanged when they found Santa’s gifts on Christmas morning. I can’t stop thinking about sitting around the tree exchanging kisses and I love you’s, and me, blissfully unaware of what was really going on in my marriage.
When I found out he’d continued to see her even after Christmas, I was dumbfounded. I don’t know why but I kept going back to the tree. To me, Christmas morning is the holy grail of family time. So how could he go back to her after that? To him, it seemed, the holidays were just as inconsequential as the family waiting at home.
Christmas is now the monster hiding under my bed. It’s the thing I fear the most. The juxtaposition between what I think I should be feeling at this time of year—what I used to feel, what I want to feel—and what I’m actually feeling is vast.
My therapist taught me about triggers. Triggers are seemingly little things—memories, rituals, conversations, tiny actions—that, when they occur, trigger a descent back to darkness. No matter how great a day, week or month you’re having, a trigger can come along and mess that up in seconds flat.
A trigger is when you think about going to the Santa Claus parade again this year, which makes you wonder if last year when he stepped away if he was really texting “work.” And then instead of being a functioning human with responsibilities and chores and deadlines and commitments, you’re curled up in bed because it’s just too much to deal with.
And it’s only November.
Stating the obvious, I’m still pretty angry. I’m angry about the affair, I’m angry I was oblivious to the affair, and I’m angry that my favourite season has become a reminder of all those things. The last one might seem petty and inconsequential in comparison, but there you have it.
My husband and I are trying to salvage our relationship. He is remorseful, says it was a huge mistake that will never happen again. Most days I believe him and I’m happy with the progress we’re making. Other days I’ll be knocked sideways by the sheer force of what he did, how carelessly he jeopardized his daughters’ security, and how perilously close he came to breaking their tiny hearts. But, if it ever comes time to give up, I’ll be able to look my kids in the eye and tell them, truthfully, that I gave it my all.
Most days I believe our relationship will survive. I have no idea how long I’ll be subject to triggers, unexplained absences from life and days spent hiding in bed, but my gut tells me if I can get through the next month, the worst will probably be over. The healing will continue for months, probably years, but I no longer feel the acute panic that the ground is shifting beneath me and that everything I know and rely on is wrong.
Recovery has been about patience and trust; patience for the process of healing and trust that staying together is the right decision. Having a sense of humour has been essential, as has giving myself things to look forward to. Declaring 2017-18 the Year of Me and doing more of what makes me happy has also helped.
These things are my defense against the monster, my way of pushing him back under the bed when he rears his ugly head.